Hunting, Fishing Rights Amendments Before Voters

In response to anti-hunting sentiment and laws restricting hunting access, the National Rifle Association is spearheading a movement to amend state constitutions around the country to ensure the rights to hunt and fish.

So far an inherent right to the great outdoors is explicitly protected in the constitutions of 19 states with Indiana and Kansas voters expected to decide similar measures on Nov 8. Legislation is also pending in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.

A spokeswoman for the NRA, Catherine Mortensen, told the Chicago Tribune the point was to combat efforts to ban hunting either outright or through incremental regulation. Recent legislation to stop the black bear hunt in New Jersey, Michigan’s current ban on dove hunting and California’s ban on mountain lion hunting are perfect examples.

“If we get it in an amendment, we can lock those protections in, and in the future they won’t be able to chip away at different (rights to hunt and fish),” Mortensen told the Tribune.

From the other side, it’s difficult to see a reason to oppose such an amendment other than reserving the right to manage wildlife in the future. It’s unclear what, if any, restrictions might be placed on the ability of wildlife officials to protect threatened species, for instance.

In the case of the amendment in Indiana, where the legislature also approved canned hunts in 2015, the language defines hunting and fishing as a public asset.

It would provide “the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to the laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to: (1) promote wildlife conservation and management; and (2) preserve the future of hunting and fishing.”